A peek into a web farm
The Boy Wonder has put together a very interesting article describing the server farm behind AnandTech, which has just seen some upgrades. He does a nice job of describing the challenges involved in running a load-balanced array of web servers with a database back-end, especially when it comes to managing scalability by eliminating bottlenecks. You'll also get a look at the database server they've built using a ServerWorks chipset. Many of their web servers actually use Athlon processors, believe it or not, but the DB stuff is multiprocessor.
This sort of configuration is, in my book, the future of medium- to large-scale network serversat least for the right types of applications. Bust servers into arrays, use IP networks to interconnect them, practice load balancing, and you're good to go. If a server fails, just pull it out of rotation. If you need more power, add some servers. And most importantly: use off-the-shelf, component parts to build your servers. None of this proprietary hardware junk for me, thanks.
Their setup is similar to the stuff I get paid to play with during the week. But mine's better. :)